Tag Archives: Church Reform

Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?

 

by Charles Spurgeon (edited)

An evil is in the ‘professed’ camp of the Lord, so gross in its impudence, that the most shortsighted Christian can hardly fail to notice it. During the past few years this evil has developed at an alarming rate. It has worked like leaven until the whole lump ferments!

The devil has seldom done a more clever thing, than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. From speaking out the gospel, the Church has gradually toned down her testimony, then winked at and excused the frivolities of the day. Then she tolerated them in her borders. Now she has adopted them under the plea of reaching the masses!

My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel’.

No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they confronted them? The ‘concert’ has no martyr roll.

Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world”, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow.

Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” I do not hear Him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’

No! Jesus pitied sinners, sighed and wept over them, but never sought to amuse them!

In vain will the epistles be searched to find any trace of the ‘gospel of amusement’. Their message is, “Therefore, come out from them and separate yourselves from them… Don’t touch their filthy things…” Anything approaching amusement is conspicuous by its absence. They had boundless confidence in the gospel and employed no other weapon.

After Peter and John were locked up for preaching, the Church had a prayer meeting, but they did not pray, ‘Lord, grant unto your servants that by a wise and discriminating use of innocent recreation we may show these people how happy we are’.

No! They did not cease from preaching Christ. They had no time for arranging entertainments. Scattered by persecution they went everywhere preaching the gospel. They turned the world upside down; that is the only difference from today’s church.

Lastly, amusement fails to effect the end desired. Let the heavy laden who found peace through the concert not keep silent! Let the drunkard to whom the dramatic entertainment had been God’s link in the chain of their conversion, stand up! There are none to answer! The mission of amusement produces no converts!

The need of the hour for today’s ministry is earnest spirituality joined with Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt, that it sets men on fire.

Lord, clear the Church of all the rot and rubbish the devil has imposed on her, and bring us back to apostolic methods!

Grace Gems

Dead Church Walking

In the latest issue of Credo Magazine (for which I’m thankful to have been a part of the proofreading team) has an interesting and fitting article written by Harry L. Reeder III entitled, “Dead Church Walking: Why Church Revitalization is More Important than you Think.”  In the last two posts, we’ve looked at the related concept of church revitalization, first with a look at Revelation 3:2 and then through the experience of Ernest Reisinger in working for church reform.  In this article by Reeder, we get a combination of both Scripture and experience through his well written and informative contribution to the magazine.  Some highlights from the article are below:

God’s Word is Sufficient

“While the Bible, in the Book of Acts, records ‘statistical growth’ in the church, there is no indication that the leadership focused their ministry philosophy upon statistical church growth.  But, the leadership did focus on the spiritual vitality and health of the church with statistical growth recorded as a consequence of the Apostolic ministry, not its objective.”

Strengthen the Church

“Paul’s strategy of church revitalization is clearly not embraced by today’s denominations, who for the most part leave struggling churches to fend for themselves or superintend their closing while pursuing the planting of other churches.  Paul, in contrast, intentionally and strategically sought to ‘strengthen the churches’ who were stalled, plateaued, or declining by leading them to spiritual health and vitality.”

Pursue the Wandering Flock

A Biblical Paradigm

“Instead of closing more churches than we are planting, why not close fewer, which then allows us to plant more because there are more healthy churches to reproduce new ones?”

“The objective is not church growth.  It is church health.”

“If church growth becomes the objective it will eventually lead to the pragmatic decisions of injecting ‘cultural steroids’ into the church body.  So worship becomes entertainment.  Membership becomes customer service.  The salvation message becomes the prosperity gospel or the self-esteem gospel.  This will likely result in a statistical increase initially, but a compromised message and methods for growth will eventually destroy the church body.”

You can read the article in its entirety here: http://issuu.com/credomagazine/docs/2_credo_april_2014_final

Harry L. Reeder III is Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church.  He is the author of  From Embers to a Flame: How God Can Revitalize Your Church.

Reforming a Local Church

 

This past semester I finished up my last Historical Theology class from the Midwest Center for Theological Studies (stay tuned for upcoming name change!).  This course, covering Modern Church History from roughly 1700 to present, offered an introduction into the history of reformed Baptists particularly through the required reading, the biography of Ernest Reisinger.  I was only slightly familiar with Reisinger prior to this reading, but his influence on Southern Baptists and more broadly Christianity in the U.S. was profound.  Perhaps most impressive was his massive initiative to giveaway books, not just ordinary books, but classics of the Banner of Truth variety.  In fact, the volume of his giveaways in Carlisle, PA directly influenced the decision by Banner of Truth to establish their U.S. headquarters in that town.

Reisinger had a wide variety of church experiences, including some situations that might make others melt under the pressure.  In that biography, written by Geoffrey Thomas, some helpful thoughts from Reisinger on church reform are provided.  In the last post we looked this idea from Revelation 3:2, below are suggestions for the practical application of church reform from a man who experienced that several times.  The entire article is available here: http://www.chapellibrary.org/book/ralc/reforming-a-local-church

Some Practical Suggestions for the Contemporary Scene

1. Don’t try any reformation until you have earned some spiritual credibility with the church.

2. The first suggestion is study the Biblical principle of accommodation.  There is a little pamphlet on this subject, The Principle of Biblical Accomodation as Applied to the Invitation System, and an excellent message on tape by Thomas K. Ascol.[1]

3. Three questions should be asked, and carefully answered:

A. What is the right, Biblical thing to do?

B. How should these changes be implemented?

C. When should they be implemented?  Don’t try to do too much too soon.  Many mistakes have been made by doing the right thing in the wrong way or at the wrong time.

4.The principle of priorities must be applied.  You can’t change everything at once- first things first.

5. The principle of two churches must be before us at all times.

A. The church as it should be, conceived from the scriptures, in idealism – never abandon this.

B. The church as it is – the one you look at 11:00 on Sunday morning.  One must realize that the two shall never meet on earth, but you will find joy and satisfaction in narrowing the difference between them, that is, when you see the one you look at on Sunday morning make some steps toward the ideal one.

6. The principle of church membership.  Don’t make church membership any narrower than the New Testament.

7. The principle of restraint.  Don’t tackle the whole church at one time.  Choose a few men who are sincere, teachable, and spiritually minded, and spend time with them in study and prayer.  They will help you to reform.  This principle is found in Titus 1:5: “For this cause left I thee behind in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city, as I have appointed thee.”  Acts 14:23 “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”  Acts 11:30: “Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.”  Acts 20:17,28: “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  Don’t get bogged down with what you call these men until they are trained – they are called overseers – elders.

8. Don’t get hung up on secondary matters.

9. Don’t use theological language that is not in the Bible, in the pulpit, such as, Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption etc.  Most people will not know what you are talking about.

10. Use sound literature, not indiscriminately, but wisely.  Little things at first, that is, pamphlets and books with some doctrinal and experimental substance.

11. Don’t use the pulpit to scold people.  You cannot scold people into reformation.

12. Exercise common sense.

13. Depend on the only weapons we have: prayer, preaching, and teaching.

14. Be sure that you understand the foundational doctrines and how they are related to each other and to your situation.

15. I would suggest that you check the history of your church in respect to early constitutions or declarations of faith.  Often you will find, particularly, in older churches, a statement expressing the doctrines which you desire to establish.  A gracious appeal to this document will help to give you credibility, at least they will know you are not coming from Mars.  Hide behind these articles of faith.  Hide behind our Baptist fathers, such as Bunyan, Spurgeon, Fuller, Boyce, Dagg, Broadus, Manly, W.B. Johnson, W.B.C. Howell, and B.H. Carroll.

Most of these suggestions come from experience, and, she is a queer old teacher.  She first gives you the test and then the lesson – unlike other teaching!

Final Appeal

The proper motives for reformation are love to God and concern for His glory; love for man and concern for his good; love for God’s Holy Law as the only perfect, objective standard of righteousness; love for Christ and His Church; love and compassion for sinners.

Since nothing in this mortal life is more important than true religion in the soul, and in the church, reformation should be diligently sought after, and carefully looked into.  It is not enough to pout and complain about what is wrong in the visible church, but we must be occupied in forming and restoring what is right and Biblical.  A censorious spirit will not reform the church.



[1] These are available through The Christian Gospel Foundation, 521 Wildwood Parkway, Cape Coral, FL 33904, or Pastor Thomas K. Ascol, Grace Baptist Church, 204 SW 11th Place, Cape Coral, FL 33991